Once upon a time, there was a French restaurant in Bal Harbour. Sometimes it was good. Sometimes it wasn’t. So, naturally, it closed. But this did not dampen the good folks of Bal Harbour’s desire for crusty baguette, cheesy French onion soup, plateaux of fresh fruit de mer or succulent roasted chicken.
Enter restauranteur extraordinaire Stephen Starr, who took over the once French corner and rechristened it “Le Zoo.” The new digs are fashioned in a classical French brasserie style, and inspired by a “fictional location” on the French Riviera, aglow in lights…with just a touch of magic.
The new hotspot evokes a European sidewalk café, but copious greenery adds a tropical flair to create a one-of-a-kind location. The menu is très Français with lots of French classics like frog legs, escargot, chilled radishes, steak au poivre, beef bourguignon, grilled loup de mer, trout amandine and artisanal cheese.
There are a few exceptions to the French rule, however. There is an American burger as well as a unique King Crab Angel Hair dish that promises to be one of their signatures on the menu.
Dessert is its own special affair with sweet more classics sure to evoke home from even the most hard-boiled ex-patriot.
The milk chocolate pot de creme is creamy and indulgent. Vanilla bean creme brûlée, baba au rhum were all great and the profiteroles passed the test of both a finicky Frenchman and expert caterer on the day we tried the restaurant with flying colors.
Decor is well done, with hues of cream, brown and pops of bright green plants. Design aficionados will be interested to know that wall sconces are by Charlotte Perriand and table lamps by Eileen Gray. There are tiles made from wine cork and collages from 1950s and 1960s vintage French magazines in the bathrooms that make trips to the loo a little fun, just like everything else about the place.